No User Fee must go! Clarendon leaders want drastic changes for 2016
MAY PEN, Clarendon:
Last year was a challenging one for Jamaica - slow growth, unemployment, rapid sliding of the Jamaican dollar, and high crime rate, among other troubling issues.
To this end, Clarendon leaders shared their opinions on the changes they want to see to put the country on a better footing.
At the top of Dr Winston Dawes', chairman of Clarendon Chamber of Commerce, list is the no user fee policy and, for him, that must go.
"The fact that many who could afford to pay don't have to has meant that there is a loss of funds. The previous policy involved assessment officers who would interview the patients and could ascertain those who could pay and how much. The added funds would assist in purchasing pharmaceuticals and maintain equipment," he said.
Dawes pointed out that many of the poorest are being denied investigations and expensive medications because of the lack of funds.
"In addition, the Chikungunya epidemic demonstrated the effects of diseases on the public and the economy. An adequate response required large sums of money. Therefore, it is vital that adequate preparations must always be a part of the nation's psyche and budget."
Dawes said that there has not been a serious examination of the health needs of the country and its citizens for decades.
"It is now opportune for us to do so. The demands far exceed the ability to fund the health services, and so there must be a consensus on how the health dollar is spent.
Custos of Clarendon William 'Billy' Shagoury makes no secret of his desire to see HEART Trust/National Training Agency students going beyond their training and moving on to apprenticeship.
"The Government must get serious about instituting a proper apprenticeship programme for the HEART students when they graduate so that they are marketable because they leave HEART and don't know anything," he said.
Shagoury also wants the Government to put on its agenda the reintroduction of the 'Two is better than too many' family planning campaign.
"Who are having the many children are those who can't afford it. Working class is only having one or two. Find ways to at least encourage them not to have so many or they (Government) will forever be giving out PATH (Programme of Advancement through Health and Education) money and putting the country deeper and deeper into debt," he noted.
With Clarendon among the parishes that have a high murder rate, Dawes sees this year as a critical one for the country.
"The continuing high crime rate obviously has a negative impact on society - business, schools, and families; however, we must all be involved in the solution. While the police must take the lead in the fight, the rest of us must play our role," he said.
Part of the solution for him is interacting with youth and mentoring and this, he said, will offer many of them an alternative to a life of crime. Jobs, apprenticeships, and sports, for him, will also have a positive impact.
Ingrid Parchment, chairman of the Clarendon Development Parish Committee, wants the Government to implement a crime-reduction plan.
Parchment stressed the importance of opportunities that are focused on career development and not just short-term jobs.
Youth Information Officer Chevelle Campbell said she would like to see more Jamaican youth taking advantage of the opportunities available to them.
"It is also my wish to see them more motivated to take control of their destinies and not leave their futures up to chance," she said.